Back in 1888 -- 03/30/13

Among the reasons that I've not spent much time here lately is that I've been spending a lot of time back in 1888.

You see, I am on the board of directors of the Narragansett Historical Society and I do their webpage. Until March of 1888, there was no Town of Narragansett -- that land was all part of the Town of South Kingstown. The residents of the Narragansett area began to feel that their interests were not the same as those of the rest of South Kingstown. Most of the South Kingstown depended on an agricultural economy plus some mills (mostly in the villages of Wakefield and Peace Dale. The Narragansett area, however, was becoming more and more of an upscale summer tourist area. It was gaining a number of "summer cottages" similar to Newport (although mostly not quite as ostentatious) plus an ever expanding number of upscale resort hotels. For more than a decade, passengers from New York (or Baltimore or Philadelphia, etc.) could travel by train to Kingston Station and there switch to the Narragansett Pier Railroad to complete their journey -- or, they could come by steamboat from New York and disembark at Narragansett Pier. The Narragansett Casino was designed by the noted firm of McKim, Mead, and White, the architectural firm that was also responsible for the Newport Casino as well as a number of sumptuous homes in both Narragansett and Newport. It was not a gambling casino (although doubtless the gentlemen might have wagered among themselves during a friendly game of cards) but rather provided a ballroom and a restaurant and some upscale shops as well as a number of tennis courts.

And so, in March of 1888, the Town of South Kingstown was separated into two Districts -- the larger of which would retain the South Kingstown name while the other would become the Town of Narragansett.

So I have been putting in some time at my favorite branch of the South Kingstown Library -- the Peace Dale Library -- looking through microfilm copies of the Narragansett Times for this time of year in 1888 so that I can post some news items from 125 years ago onto the historical society website. I have been putting each item on our index page and then moving them to an archives section. In addition to the latest news from a century and a quarter ago, I've also included some posts about our current day activities. One of my goals is to get people to turn to the historical society site on a regular basis.

So -- just in case you might be interested -- here's what I've been posting there:
  • The story of the gold cane -- entrusted to the eldest living town citizen since 1909 and then missing for 24 years until suddenly found and returned to the town.
  • The Great Blizzard of 1888 -- it buried New York and most of New England
  • Town Division Meeting -- even as the division date approached, various villages were still debating who should stay and who should go
  • A 125th Anniversary Party for the Town of Narragansett, held at The Towers (all that remains of the Narragansett Casino).
  • An Inauguration Party in 1888 to celebrate Narragansett's new status (and a preacher gets a wild and radical idea: why not invite the women of the town to attend the next meeting).
And I am still working out (in fact, I need to go do that now) and keeping busy with other stuff as well -- spent a couple of hours this morning sorting donated books at the Peace Dale Library in preparation for the Friends of the Library book sale coming up in two weeks. And soon it will be time for outdoor spring chores -- in fact already did some of that yesterday, pruning tree branches that had been broken by that February blizzard.

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